The fate of a Fargo surgeon accused of drugging and sexually assaulting his wife was in a jury's hands Tuesday after nine days of testimony into the unapproved use of a powerful surgical anesthetic and marital strife.
Dr. Jon Norberg, 42, has pleaded not guilty to gross sexual imposition and reckless endangerment. He is accused of injecting Dr. Alonna Norberg, 42, with the anesthetic propofol — which became well-known in the investigation into pop star Michael Jackson's death — and sexually assaulting her.
Prosecutor Gary Euren told jurors in his closing argument Tuesday that Alonna Norberg was unconscious and did not have the ability to give consent. Defense attorney Robert Hoy countered that Alonna Norberg was a willing participant and made up the allegations to help in a looming divorce and child custody case.
"It's about Alonna Norberg being drugged with propofol and Dr. Jon Norberg having sexual intercourse with her in various forms. That's the case," Euren told the jury.
Hoy began his closing argument with a question for jurors.
"Do you believe Alonna Norberg?" he asked.
Later, Hoy said, "If Alonna Norberg is not credible and you do not believe what she has said, the state's case crumbles. There is no case. It's as simple as that."
The Associated Press typically does not identify alleged sex crime victims, but Alonna Norberg has spoken publicly, including once to deny her husband's claims at an earlier hearing that she agreed to use propofol as part of treatment for her numerous medical ailments.
Alonna Norberg testified that she agreed to take Diprivan and didn't know it was the brand name for propofol.
Hoy had said the accusations are part of a scheme by Alonna Norberg to make her look better in a child custody battle and insisted she willing took the drug for 18 months.
Euren said Jon Norberg showed "extreme indifference to the value of human life" by injecting his wife with propofol without having the proper training and equipment.
Hoy said the propofol injections made Alonna Norberg feel better and allowed her to have normal relations with her husband.
"So the idea that after your wife would feel better and perhaps her libido would return and you would engage in normal marital relations, it's not a dirty thing," Hoy said. "It's not a bad thing. It's a good thing. It's what couples do."
Alonna Norberg testified earlier in the trial she awoke on the night of June 16, 2011, to find her husband forcing her to perform oral sex.
The jury will be allowed to consider lesser charges on each of the two counts, meaning that Jon Norberg is facing maximum penalties between one year and life in prison if found guilty. The jurors were excused after closing arguments Tuesday, but not before Euren asked them to look beyond the lack of physical evidence for sexual assault.
"Yes, it's a tough case," Euren said, "because it's a 'he said, she said.' There's no question about that."